Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Initiative Promotes Nutritious Cooking, Family Dinners

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Initiative Promotes Nutritious Cooking, Family Dinners

Article excerpt

A new program in the Sto-Rox area has families making reservations to gather around the dinner table four nights a week.

Called The Family Table, the free hands-on course at the Father Ryan Arts Center in McKees Rocks is geared toward low-income families and promotes a range of healthy habits for children and adults. In addition to teaching participants how to prepare healthful meals using mostly ingredients available from food banks, it emphasizes to parents the importance of gathering around the table with their children.

"This is what's important - sitting together, talking, engaging one another. This is the idea of The Family Table," said instructor Cynthia Stevans, a Nutrition Links adviser with Penn State Extension.

Last week was the inaugural week for the program for families with ties to the Focus On Renewal social service agency. Reservations are already filled several weeks in advance.

During its first week, participants helped to work out any kinks in the program. For example, recipes were altered to accommodate the use of an electric skillet because the new stove for the center's community kitchen hadn't been delivered yet.

Participant Larry Rodgers, food pantry coordinator with FOR, said the experience was better than he expected. His three young daughters were excited to attend each session, he said.

While chopping vegetables, mixing beverages or washing and drying dishes, the younger children excitedly stood on chairs to reach the countertops.

Families discussed portion size, calories, sodium content, whole grains and other nutritional guidelines prior to the meal preparation.

"That's our problem, not the fruits but the vegetables," said participant Julie Bruno of Stowe, pointing to a pile of red, yellow and orange sliced peppers.

"This is all of America's problem," responded Mrs. Stevans, who since 2010, has been providing the federally funded Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program throughout Allegheny County to parents of young families and pregnant teens who are eligible for nutrition assistance through SNAP. …

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